By Max Pizarro | November 2nd, 2012 - 8:53am
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Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) today said she would introduce legislation to equip gas stations with generators so they can operate in the wake of emergencies like Hurricane Sandy.

"With 'storms of the century' hitting New Jersey every October, it's clear that we need to take the same emergency precautions as hurricane-prone states like Florida," Buono said. "We need to ensure that our gas stations are equipped with generators to keep their pumps running during extended power outages."

While Florida requires all gas stations to be equipped with generators, Buono said she would prefer to start with a program offering low-interest loans to gas stations to buy generators at a discounted bulk purchase price negotiated by the state.

Buono noted that only 35 percent of the state's gas stations were reported open yesterday -- three days after Sandy hit New Jersey -- and most of those were in areas that were relatively unscathed by the storm. Based on estimates by PSE&G, JCP&L and Atlantic Electric, it could be another week to 10 days before all of the remaining gas stations have power.

"Frustrated motorists shouldn't have to wait in lines a hundred cars long at the relatively few gas stations with generators," said Buono, a likely 2013 gubernatorial challenger. "Because of the high demand, those gas stations quickly run out, while other gas stations with full underground tanks sit idle nearby because their pumps won't operate.

"It isn't just a matter of having enough gas to get to the store or to get to work when businesses reopen," she added. "It's a matter of public safety and health for people who need gas to keep their own generators going, including those with  elderly parents with ventilators or other special medical needs."

Buono said she asked the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services to research the issue and found that Florida, which has more experience dealing with severe hurricanes than any other state, requires all gas stations to be equipped with generators.

"We should certainly consider requiring all new gas stations to be equipped with generators, but I would rather create an incentive program for existing retailers," Buono said.

She said her legislation would direct the state Division of Purchase and Property to negotiate a bulk purchasing price for a range of generators suitable for gas stations and for local government facilities that may need them.

"Normally, only government entities can take advantage of the deep discounts negotiated by the Division of Purchase and Property, but it is clearly in the public interest for us to extend that privilege to gas stations in this circumstance."

Buono said her legislation would also direct the state Economic Development Authority to develop a low-interest loan program for gas stations to purchase generators.

"This unique public-private partnership should achieve the desired result of encouraging large numbers of gas stations to install generators," Buono said. "Gas stations lose money when they aren't open. This program should be especially attractive for service stations with repair shops and those with convenience stores. This would have the advantage of providing a place for people to get milk, bread or a cup of hot coffee while waiting for their power to be restored."

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